Restaurant ideas when stepping off-property
Friday, October 24, 2003
Text and photos by Sue Holland, staff writer
Eating out can be a big part of the fun of any vacation, but it can
also take the biggest bite out of the vacation budget. For many people,
eating in restaurants is reserved for weekends or special occasions, but
when on vacation every day is special. The majority of visitors to Walt
Disney World do not have access to a kitchen to store and prepare their
own meals, but many of those who do still prefer to eat a most meals in
Walt Disney World has enough restaurant choices in all price ranges to
keep a family satisfied for the longest of vacations, without having to
repeat a meal.
Despite all of these choices, however, there are times when it makes
sense to look for a restaurant that's not on Disney property. For me,
personally, I usually pay for just myself or a party of two, which makes
eating at Disney prices less of an issue than it would be for a larger
family. In fact, despite making frequent trips to Walt Disney World, I
do not even consider leaving Disney property to find a meal. For me, it
is not worth the inconvenience, and there are too many restaurants I enjoy
to consider skipping one in favor of going off-site to save a few bucks.
However, not everyone shares the same opinion that Disney restaurants
are worth the money.
Generally, Disney portions are very largemuch larger than any person
needs at one meal. Prices are high, but considering the portion size generally
it still represents a decent value. People can find equally large portions
at off-site restaurants, generally for a fraction of the Disney price.
For this reason, people may choose to visit local restaurants. Visitors
staying in non-Disney hotels and motels may find off-site restaurants
more convenient, as well.
In the Orlando area, and particularly along International Drive and Highway
192, it is not hard to find that almost every chain restaurant is represented.
While some people would never consider using vacation time to eat at a
restaurant they can visit at home, others welcome the familiarity and
knowing exactly what to expect. In this article I will not focus on those
familiar chains, but will highlight a couple of popular restaurants that
receive consistently good comments. They are both part of a chain, but
are not as common across the United States as a Red Lobster or Olive Garden
Lake Buena Vista Ale House
The first recommended site is the Lake Buena Vista Ale House. It's located
across from the Grand Cypress Resort on Winter Garden Vineland Road.
From Disney property, pass Downtown Disney and take Hotel Boulevard past
the non-Disney hotels. At the traffic light across from CrossRoads take
a left and then another left at the next light. The Ale House will be
on the corner on your right after turning.
Lake Buena Vista Ale House is part of a popular chain of restaurants in
Florida, serving affordable food in large portions.
I first became familiar with the Ale House chain when friends in Gainesville,
Florida, took me to their favorite restaurantthe Gainesville Ale
House. Years later, one opened in my town, and I've enjoyed them in other
Florida cities as well. Each location has the same menu, andif built
specifically to be an Ale Housethe interior will be identical. Hours
at this location are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with proper attire
(no tank tops) after 8 p.m.
Inside, there is a large bar area surrounded by plenty of tables and
booths. There is a lot of dark wood used, which makes the restaurant seem
a bit darkbut I find it to be very attractive. Smoking used to be
permitted in the bar area before July 1, 2003, but now the entire building
Menus also serve as placemats and I cannot imagine anyone not being able
to find several tempting items to choose from. They offer wings, appetizers,
salads, soups, burgers, sandwiches, pasta and a variety of entrees and
specials. They have 11 different burgers on the menu, all made with a
half-pound of ground sirloin.
The Chicken Nachos are very popular, and can easily feed an entire family.
My favorite menu item is the Cajun Chicken Pasta, which usually ends up
being three or more meals for me! The French Onion Soup is also excellent,
as is the Conch Chowder. A friend swears by the Seafood Medley, which
is shrimp, scallops, clams and crabmeat blend, sautˇed in garlic sherry
butter over pasta. The Ale House is also home to Pepsi products, so Pepsi
addicts suffering from Coca-Cola overload at the parks can enjoy their
favorite beverages here. Desserts are available for anyone still having
roomand as expected are oversized.
Prices range from $6 to $10, with appetizers being less expensive than
that. The highest-priced item on the menu is the full rack of ribs for
$12.95. That full rack would be at least twice as expensive at a Disney
restaurant! Highchairs and booster seats are available, and this is a
casual place where families are the norm. There are several television
sets mounted throughout the room, all tuned to different sports events.
I believe they provide crayons for the young children.
Another nice feature of this Ale House is its carry-out service. Customers
can call ahead to order their food, and an Ale House employee will deliver
it out to the car. When a Florida thunderstorm is raging, this is a really
nice feature! Carry-out menus are available at the restaurant, and the
carry-out order phone number is (407) 465-0405. You can view a sample
menu at the Ale House Web site (link).
Another popular choice with vacationers and locals is Bahama Breeze.
Located next to Marriott Village on the way to the Premium Outlets and
large Catholic Church, it is very convenient to Walt Disney World.
From Disney property, take a right at the light across from CrossRoads
and take a left at the first light (Vineland Road) just after passing
under I-4. You should see Bahama Breeze on your left. There are also Bahama
Breeze locations on International Drive and in Altamonte Springs.
The one drawback is the potential for incredibly long waits during peak
dinner hours. A wait of 90 minutes is common at the Bahama Breeze in my
town, so I always visit for a very early dinner (by 5 p.m.). The restaurant
in most locations open at 4 p.m. but this one is also open for lunch starting
Bahama Breeze has long waits during peak dinner hours, but it might just
make your whole family anticipate the famous coconut-battered onion rings
all the more.
Although the name Bahama Breeze would imply a Bahamian theme,
the restaurant is actually inspired by the Caribbean. All of the food
is made from scratch, and they have the largest beverage menu I have ever
seen. Each location is identical in terms of layout and décor,
featuring the architecture and style found in the Caribbean. Inside there
is a fairly large bar area, and several booths and tables. There is also
a small gift shop just inside the entrance, that sells mostly inexpensive
Valet parking is available here, or diners can self-park. During busy
times, and especially if the weather looks questionable, valet parking
is very nice to have. Although waits can be quite long, there is an outdoor
covered patio area with a fire pit and also live entertainment during
Typically, the entertainment is a musician singing and playing Caribbean
music, which helps add to the atmosphere. Appetizers and beverages are
available on the patio, and they are plentiful enough to serve as a meal.
Quite often, we visit the Bahama Breeze in our town and make a meal of
appetizers on the porch.
Inside, they have an open kitchen that is visible from most tables. One
of the most popular appetizers is the Onion Rings, but these are no ordinary
rings. Each is about an inch thick, dipped in batter and coconut, then
fried to perfection. A couple of dipping sauces accompany a massive pile
of the rings to feed an entire family. My son generally hates onion rings,
but he loves these.
The West Indies Patties are also excellentsimilar to the empanadas
served at Bongos but with much better flavor. They are crisply fried turnovers
of ground beef and vegetables with apple-mango salsa. People who miss
the coconut shrimp on the Disney Cruise Line menus will find them available
here marinated in Coco Lopez and served with citrus mustard sauce.
A variety of soups, salads, sandwiches and entrees are available. Many
items have a distinctive Caribbean flair, but everything is delicious.
The pan-seared salmon pasta is very popular, and consists of bowtie pasta
with passion fruit-thyme cream sauce with sugar snap peas, mushrooms and
tomatoes. The jerk spice is common in the Caribbean and Bahama
Breeze offers jerk chicken as a sandwich, pasta or entrée. You
can see its full menu at its Web site (link).
Portions here are large, with some entrees being available in your choice
of half or full size. Doggie bags are pretty common! There is a children's
menu and the restaurant is very family-friendly. Prices run higher than
the Ale House, but somewhat lower than Disney restaurants.
If you only have time to visit the Ale House or Bahama Breeze, I would
definitely recommend Bahama Breeze. It not only has that tropical feeling
that most vacationers enjoy, the food is more upscale and less ordinary.
However, you are sure to enjoy both restaurants, even with picky eaters!
Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since
her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning
more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.
After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in
1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at
the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.
She takes many of these trips on her own, but
she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly,
and people with disabilities.
She works as the Administrative Services Division Head
for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children
and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.
Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers.
Read her trip report archive here.
You can contact Sue here.
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Update: Walt Disney World.